Ok… What the hell am i doing back in Spain!? If you are indeed wondering this, say the question out loud and listen to how ridiculous you sound! Of course i’m back in Spain, and you would be too if you’ve had the same experiences i’ve had here. Fantastic weather, awesome architecture, cool people and of course, satiating my hunger for all things flamenco! Where else am i going to go!
This trip is happening at a really cool time in my life, regarding both business and personal matters, and my overall excitement upon arriving can’t be measured.
This trip started many months ago when it was announced that my hero Tomatito was playing. I have been waiting to see this man play for years, hoping he would come anywhere close to Canada at a time when my schedule would allow me to go. I have never waited for anything like a simple concert before….EVER!
Most of the musical influences in my life naturally pass through Toronto at some point, and I think i’ve been spoiled with how easy it is to see someone if i really wanted to. Tickets are pretty simple to get with even the smallest amount of effort… and of course the right friends! If i didn’t go, i am always thinking “they’ll return next year!” Now, before you become too outraged at this minor douchebaggedness, try to understand the overall anxieties I have about going to concerts. It really is hard for me to go as I spend the entire night really edgy and nervous and start to forget who i am there to see. I can stand in front of 30,000 people and play without one ounce of nerves, but put me on the other side with 100 and I start to unravel. I’ve never been that concert going type guy, even when the tickets are right in front of me… however, I at least pay it forward to somebody I think might benefit from going. I’ll always be ok missing out. (Best example of that was the kick ass tickets to U2s “Zoo Station” tour, supposedly one of their all time best, and right before walking into the front door of Maple Leaf Gardens, I chickened out and scalped the ticket, and spent $400 in quarters playing arcade games, getting a bit drunk and eating shitty food until my brother came outside after the show. A grand night out!)
Back to Tomatito! So the month of September is a very important month this year as the biggest flamenco festival, “la Bienal de Flamenco de Sevilla” which happens every two years, is happening as we speak. I had a really strong feeling that some amazing people would be playing this, and Tomatito’s website was eerily quiet. It made perfect sense for him to play as he had just won the Latin Grammy for Best Flamenco Album (again!) and the entire festival this year is paying tribute to the late master Paco De Lucia, who helped Tomatito early in his career and shared a special bond with. Everything pointed to him being there. I had a calendar alert set up for the morning of the lineup announcement, which was the middle of the night at home! So, I waited, and waited…… and BOOM! There he was, and playing at the Royal Palace!! Oh my sweet jesus! (Estrella Morente is playing the festival too, who I had just seen in Toronto at Massey Hall a few months ago! Magical!). This could be really intense, i’ll stock up on kleenex.
It basically felt like Christmas but my excitement blinded me from one small detail… the gift was 6000km away! It all happened kind of quickly and obviously without much thought, but the next thing you know, we bought the tickets online and sat facing this little “problem”; now we have to get to Spain! An eerily quiet breakfast ensued as I began to understand that this will be the most expensive concert ever, but I didn’t stop smiling.
At the same time, I was trying to find ways to turn this trip into something more than a personal pilgrimage and really start to put some business pieces together. Most people around me know that I’ve been working on some documentary concepts for quite some time, with at least three of them centered around flamenco. Yes i’m somewhat addicted! I feel that flamenco saved me in a lot of ways musically at a point when I had really lost faith in being a musician, and I am now indebted forever to it. Surely I can put the pieces together and do what I need to do, which is bring this amazing art and this amazing country, to more people on our side of the ocean.
So, here I sit, on a beautiful beach, staring at the Mediterranean, watching the cargo ships in the distance on their way to Africa across the channel, pondering my next move.
The past year had been a whirlwind of mixed emotions on the personal side and while in the middle of everything, really hard to gain any perspective. I never really took to the idea of decompression as a useful life tool as i prefer to stay in the centre of any storm, however, the past 6 days of nothing but beautiful things and a return to some very simple and pure feelings, has definitely quieted my mind.
A little off topic, but have you ever looked around at the people in your life and question why they are there? Seriously, make a list and look at it! I think we all do this at some point in our lives, but if you haven’t, maybe you should. (Ok wait, i’m not talking about facebook friends, those are an entirely different thing altogether!). I’ve been thinking that living cleanly has to mean a lot more to me than good food, no alcohol, and lots of exercise. Being surrounded by people who actually add value to your life, support you through all things, and who you would gladly give the same to…. now THIS is huge. Some people close to me are currently surrounded by shit, towing an anchor full of horrible, selfish people behind them, totally unable to break free, and in the process, sacrificing their own potential. For what? Absolutely nothing. I am definitely no exception. I have had my own process of recognizing and weeding out the more problematic influences in my life and I have to say i’m feeling “lighter”. It’s an ongoing process. I know it’s difficult to basically analyze some really old friendships and make a decision, but once you start, it’s really hard to stop. As much as I am bothered by the behaviour of some, and want them to feel absolute shame and disgrace, it’s just not worth the effort. Think of it this way, if you spend all of your energy on people who give you nothing in return, what quality of energy is left to give to the people who mean the most? Do it people, and be a better friend to the people who need you. Sorry for that little side note, but this beach really gets me thinking!
One consistently great thought I keep returning to is that the band is solid and in a good place. The last chunk of shows we played were a lot of fun, and we played pretty good. A little guerrilla style here and there but overall good. We have decided that the next time we are forced to play for 45 minutes, we are either doing an Iron Maiden set, or a Shortcut to Moncton “jazz odyssey” set. We spent the week before the first show in August recording, as Brian was in town for rehearsals. It was a fantastic experience and we are all feeling really energized by our new process. Tracking everything, including drums at home is a really stress free way to do it. I mean, sonically it sounds like complete shit but hey, at least it’s trendy and fun! Joking. To tell you the truth, some of my favourite tones are happening right now, and the ability to just decide to track when we feel like it is really great! (and i am determined to record everything with one kind of mic!)
When I left, the music we have already recorded was still sounding great and I have totally avoided that old urge to jump off a bridge. I can start mixing almost right away with only a few details left to attend to and hopefully get this tune out in October. That would be perfect. Within a couple weeks we’ll be tracking another bunch that we’re excited about as well. We have no idea on how songs will come out just yet as we are currently figuring out some new ways to go on the business front. A lot of interesting options in front of us for sure, we just have to feel really good about them. I haven’t touched base with anybody back home on that front but thinking I should! The only problem with being here is that doing things “tomorrow” always seems to be better. A huge problem for a notorious procrastinator like myself! Lol! How do people work at all with all of this beauty around them! It’s difficult even to write a simple blog without being distracted!
So, I’m not really sure where the new tune fits in the big picture. I don’t think it’s the bonafide hit that it’s probably supposed to be as it twists and turns a bit too much, and has extremely hairy knuckles at times. The comment i’ve heard the most from anybody hearing it is…”wow…. I didn’t expect that at all… but somehow it still sounds like you guys”. I get the strong feeling that it’s totally cool from them and they honestly dig it, but the opening of the song (and the verses) shock them a little. I really feel great about the reactions so far, even though I haven’t played it for anybody with the vocals in yet! Lol! If they are grooving on just the music, then that’s always a great start. When Brian starts to give it on this one I think it pushes him into some really challenging areas and it sounds killer. (Sorry Brian, if you are reading this, I forgot to tell you “it sounds killer” before I left!). We also had some friends staying with us from Spain and one day we all recorded some hand claps and some tribal toms on it. Totally hilarious doing that but it sounds great and seriously huge! So the idea is to get this tune wrapped up asap when I return, because I just want to sit back and listen to it, but mostly just want you all to hear it. I’m also pretty tired of working on it and my brain is already on the next ones!
So, decompression accomplished as a couple days in Granada, Almuñécar, Tarifa and heading into sweet Sevilla does a body and mind some good! The only thing is that I wish I had a guitar, my hands are itchy and a bit restless… maybe it’s good to be away from it for this short time.
Anyhow… off to Sevilla and to who knows what!
Ama a tu Mamá